Is the new creative team living in the shadow of Johns and Reis or are they finally picking up some steam of their own?
I have been reading this title since its relaunch under the talented hands of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. Their work was spectacular even if the title seemed to suffer from some story drift (sorry for the pun) near the end of their run. When the title transitioned to Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier I was excited. Two creators whose work I had enjoyed in the past will surely be able to continue this character’s upward momentum. Unfortunately I have been underwhelmed so far.
Jeff Parker’s writing seems confined and safe – something I have not noticed from him before. I don’t know if this is due to some editorial mandate or Parker’s own trepidation following the likes of Johns. The transition seemed smooth enough and Parker is for the most part not jettisoning the good things about the character’s revival. This issue’s story, however, will seem very familiar to any regular reader of the title. A nosy scientist betrays Aquaman and inadvertently opens a rift allowing monstrous creatures to threaten Atlantis and the surface world. We have been here before and fairly recently in fact.
What I am missing in particular is Parker’s humour. Even Johns injected a sense of self depreciation into the character. A fitting addition since Aquaman is usually the butt of jokes anyway. Parker is, after all, writing the terrific Batman ’66 title that oozes with self mocking. The end of this issue gave me a little hope. I am not terribly excited about the identity of the big bad since you know this is the classic misunderstood fight trope. I did particularly enjoy the winged serpentine woman and hope she will develop into a worthy adversary for Aquaman. Parker needs to be free to bring his style and energy to this title.
Here again I feel like the current artist is trying to be too much like the previous fan favorite. Paul Pelletier’s art always looked like Alan Davis and John Byrne had a love child. He has smooth, sleek lines on solid, well positioned figures with expressive faces. You can see some of his style shine when the story stays in the slower parts of the book. Mera’s expression when she opens the door is particularly nice. Unfortunately, once the action starts, the pencils and colors remain in a singular style that makes my eye rush through the panels – nothing to see here just a smash fest.
In the major fight scene Pelletier struggles when the panel is filled with rubble and rough textures. It is hard to see where one monstrous creature ends and the next one begins. You have to work to differential between the different surface textures – even between a minotaur (hair), a cyclops (skin) and a crab monster (hard shell). I think this is made worse by a color palette that stays within a few shades of one tone throughout the battle. Norm Rapmund’s inks on the final page seem to clear up some of the clutter better than Parson’s do during the balance of the book.
Sometimes the artist’s figures can come off stiff while in action but then you get a shot like the serpentine woman beckoning the big bad through the portal – full of expression and emotion. I would like to see this creative team approach the story in such a way that will work with the artist’s strengths. I just don’t know if the art needs a better supporting cast or if Pelletier is just better suited to a book with a sleeker environment like Green Lantern or Superman.
What to look for
Is there enough here to believe that these talented creators are beginning to move in their own direction?
What might put you off
How long can we wait until these guys make this title their own?
Although I see a spark of hope here, I am getting a little tired of treading water (that pun was intended.) I am not too interested in seeing a poor man’s version of those who came before. I like these creators, just not what they have done together with this title.
Issue Number 29
Release Date 3/26/2014
Writer Jeff Parker
Penciller Paul Pelletier
Inkers Sean Parsons and Norm Rapmund (pg.20)
Colorist Rain Beredo
Letterer Dezi Sienty
Editor Chris Conroy
Reviewed by Geoff Jolliff